Passwords, Passwords, Passwords! Security Starts With Passwords.
Passwords could provide the strongest link in your chain of security, so it’s critical to use a strong password, the right length, the right combination of characters, and change it often. But what makes for a secure password?
In the same way we have keys for the front door, office door, car ignition and more, we have passwords that let us access areas of our digital lives. Unlike real-world keys though, many of us are often careless with our passwords and use the same phrase across a number of different websites, which is a potential security threat.
When you formulate a plan for creating secure passwords, you should use a different password for individual websites or online services and never write them down or tell them to anyone. That sounds like a lot of passwords, but really it isn’t that difficult to come up with a method that makes a password difficult for someone to guess whilst remaining easy for you to remember.
Ideal password length
Many websites will enforce a policy that means your password needs to be at least eight characters in length, and some will have a policy that necessitates you changing your password frequently. While an eight character password may be convenient to remember, a strong password should be at least twelve characters long, and ideally longer.
The characters you use should also be from four specific groups of characters you find on your keyboard. Capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters or symbols, like * and ?. When you combine these characters you make a password significantly harder to crack, and not just by a human who’s guessing, but by automated, brute force attacks that represent an even greater threat.
You should absolutely avoid using easy to guess words, for instance your name, or a spouse’s name and you should avoid birthdays and easy to guess words like your favourite sports team.
How To Create A Strong Password
A popular password creation method is to think more of the password as a pass-phrase, and use a phrase that means something to you, to create a password.
Let’s say I’m a keen swimmer and it’s made me a fitter, more active person and I go to the pool every morning. I’d write down the phrase
One Swim A Day Makes Me Fitter and Ready For One Great Day!
From that phrase I can create a strong password that looks like this:
I decided to use the first and last character from words that were three characters or greater in length, making the first character a capital, and the last lower case. I also decided to use numbers instead of the words one and for, and I swapped Great for Gr8. It may look like a random jumble of letters, symbols and numbers when you look at it, but not if you know the source phrase and method.
You should devise your own method, maybe deciding on the first lines of David Bowie songs, or advertising slogans, maybe even different sources for different types of online services – they just need to be phrases that make sense to you. This method will become less challenging as you use it regularly to create new, strong passwords but provides a good barrier to anyone attempting to put you at risk online.
Magnet are hosting the National Cybercrime Awareness Day on October 24 in the Royal College of Physicians, Dublin 2. You can register your interest here.